Union: Burgess’s attacks on civil servants are ‘disturbing’
An attack on civil servants by a senior Government MP has been branded as “disturbing” by the Bermuda Public Services Union.
The comments came after Derrick Burgess, Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, told MPs that civil servants thought they were in charge of ministers.
The former Bermuda Industrial Union president also stated that some public servants had engaged in “threatening” and “shameful“ behaviour.
A BPSU statement released today said: “As the union representing a significant number of public officers, it was disturbing to the Bermuda Public Services Union to learn that on February 3, 2023, a current Government MP took to the floor of the House of Assembly to accuse government employees of engaging in “threatening” and “shameful” behaviour, and “making policies as they go”.
“He further asserted that public officers were unjustly ‘penalising’ members of the public, thinking that ‘they are in charge – even of the minister’ and ‘above the ministry and the Government’.”
The union added that Mr Burgess’s remarks and the fact that the The Royal Gazette reported his House of Assembly speech promoted a “negative narrative”.
The statement said: “These allegations then became The Royal Gazette’s front-page headline news – providing fodder to further promote the negative narrative regarding the integrity of Bermuda’s public officers.
“Far be it for the BPSU to get into a dispute with a former president of our sister union and Bermuda’s only local newspaper, however, as representatives of public officers, it would be remiss of this union not to address the matter.
“For decades, public officers have been stigmatised as being inept, lazy, arrogant, overpaid, etc.
“What many fail to realise is that public-sector employees are governed by their terms and conditions of employment, and are required to adhere to various laws, regulations, policies, and procedures.”
The statement added: “There is a well-established process by which complaints against public officers are to be submitted and handled.
“Public officers accused of violating their terms and conditions of employment are subject to the prescribed investigation and disciplinary process.
“What should not happen, however, is the wide-sweeping vilification of public officers in the House of Assembly and in the press.
“This approach violates the principles of natural justice and serves no meaningful purpose.
“While the BPSU understands that salacious headlines sells papers and triggers widespread public banter, what often goes undiscussed and under-reported, is the fact that many public officers are: overworked due to longstanding staff shortages; often lack the resources and tools needed to carry out their remit; frequently operate in poor working conditions; and have gone years without a cost-of-living adjustment.
“The BPSU has worked hard to develop, maintain, and promote productive, respectful working relationships with community stakeholders including government and the press. The union encourages these same stakeholders to do the same.”
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